Col. John Posner, left, and Col. Scott West salute during a change of command ceremony Monday at Cannon Air Force Base. West was vice commander at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Military and community members filled hundreds of folding chairs inside a massive aircraft hangar at Cannon Air Force Base Monday. They were there to witness Col. John D. Posner relay command of the base to Col. Scott D. West.
Posner told the crowd that serving as the base’s commander has been the most rewarding experience of his Air Force career.
Then, marking the change of command, a pole with colorful Air Force ribbons streaming one on top of the other was passed from Posner to West.
Hailing from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, West was the vice commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing before coming to Cannon. He said he is excited to be in New Mexico, and then received his first salute from the 27th Fighter Wing.
Posner will head to the Pentagon, where he will attain rank of brigadier general when he arrives in Washington, D.C., according to Lt. James Nichols of Cannon Public Affairs. Posner will serve as deputy director of operations for the National Military Command Center, operations Team One, according to a Department of Defense news release.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford said he will miss Posner, but believes West will conquer the challenge of leading Cannon during times of change in the wake of Cannon being placed on a list of bases to be realigned or closed. If a mission is not found, Cannon will be closed by 2010. Air Force officials have said no units or aircraft will be transferred from Cannon in 2006, but a federal commission has promised Cannon’s F-16s to various installations across the country.
“Based on the remarks from the new commander (West), plans are in place for a transition at Cannon Air Force Base. I don’t think we know yet (when), but Clovis and Portales are on standby waiting to rise to the occasion,” Lansford said.
Leading the base in a time of war and uncertainty, Posner had a hard job, which he did well, Lansford said.
“I’d like to say Brig. Gen.-Select Posner, has probably had the toughest job that any wing commander has had at Cannon that I’ve seen in my life. He led a wing that’s been at war, while dealing with the (Base Realignment and Closure) process and issues surrounding deployment.
That’s just tough and at the same time he made progress by making the base a better installation and getting troops skilled and prepared,” Lansford said.
Other distinguished guests at the event included Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega and Committee of Fifty member Randy Harris.
The event’s master of ceremonies was Lt. Gen. Randall Mark Schmidt, who commands the 12th Air Force and U.S. Southern Command Air Forces at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
Schmidt gave West two priorities he said he shared with Posner back in April 2004, when Posner assumed command.
Take care of airman and their families, Schmidt said to West. “They’re our greatest asset.”
And Schmidt told West “Prepare to deploy, fight and win.”